Getting on in life

There is a scene in the excellent film ”Fight Club” in which Tyler Durden describes his journey through life in a series of ‘what now?’ questions. It goes something like: work hard at school, get good grades, get a job, get married. This is the typical pattern of life that most of us get told, taught and trained until we are completely compliant. The unspoken theme is that hard work pays off and the true way to success of stellar proportions is to follow the path. The problem with this is that it does not tell the full story. As with any partial truth or model of success is that even unsuccessful people try this approach. I was reminded of this issue when reading Seth Walker’s highly entertaining pastiche on modern life called “The Dementor’s Kiss: My Life Sucking Resume (Apocalypse Tuesday)”. Seth has a lot to say about his collection of miserable work experiences that have led to a passive aggressive outlook on life and makes Walker another angry young man. The problem is of course that he has a very good point in his underlying theme that we are sent out into the world full of vim, vigour, lust for life and energy enough to change history and we are met with arse from one end to the other. The energy that we have when we hit the next stage of our lives is sucked out of us in exactly the way that J.K. Rowling describes her famous Dementors behaving. After just a few weeks of working in such an environment is it any wonder that we become “workplace sludge” as Walker says? Absolutely not a surprise, absolutely this outcome is to be anticipated. I look back over my own work and wonder if it has, in reality, been so different to Seth’s experience. I also consider Tyler Durden and my friends from school who pushed through University taking degrees that did not interest them in the hope of “making it”. The friends did not “make it” in the way that they had hoped and Durden’s tale is well documented, his frustrations were released in other ways. We have to find release for our passions. First, though, we need to understand our passions. The basic problem with treading the well worn path through life is that all the arseholes have also done the same and they are very good at making your life miserable because that is all that they know. It is like some rite of passage that we are down trodden before we can try to become what our potential might allow. In John Priestly’s “History of Science” the various people of note are rattled off in a splendid book and Gregor Mendel stands out in my mind as an example of ‘posthumous fame as the founder of the new science of genetics’. As John points out “science deals with new ideas by first ignoring theme, then calling them unimportant before finally giving credit to the wrong person”. So why did Mendel continue with his painstaking work when he was clearly not making headway in his own lifetime amongst the scientific community? The answer has already been hinted at: passion. His care was not for the extrinsic acceptance of his peers but for the intrinsic delight of working on his passion. Of course I cannot know this for absolute certain in the case of Mendel, but it is clear from my own observations of myself and those around me through the years that it is inner passion that counts. With inner passion and drive to achieve an end it is less relevant how the arseholes of the world get in our way or try to make life boring. We learn to rocket on past the problems. When put in this perspective the Dementor losses its power. This is the “expecto patronum” of our world. This is the happy thought that can banish the depression of life. It does not mean that life is easy or that you get everything that you want. What it means is, that you make choices that are consistent with your passion rather than your perception of what the arseholes want. You develop you and you are strong. With a firm intrinsic foundation it is suddenly useful to read the self help books that abound. They have relevance and can be put into immediate practice because they have something to hang upon.
Life is not easy and it is not supposed to be easy. The world does not owe us a living, it does not owe us fame and fortune. We love to watch voyeur like the immediate success meted out on game shows, talent shows and reality television. We long to win the lottery and live the life of the rich. The problem is that it is an extrinsic dream that is not only highly unlikely, unfortunately, it is also distracting to our own development as people, parents and professionals. Prince Charles has a bad press quite often and a couple of years ago got into hot water once again by saying essentially that the world needs people to be happy in jobs at all levels of society. This is actually very true. We all like to have clean houses and working utilities and food on the table even in the nastiest of weather or most difficult of conditions. Somebody is out there making all this happen. Deuce Bigalow’s dad is a toilet attendant who is portrayed enjoying his work and having a passion for it. Sure, that is not my cup of tea either and the point is not that we should be happy with cleaning up crap. The point is that we should find and understand our true passion and be authentic to that passion and make decisions with integrity towards our intrinsic drivers. If that means that we end up cleaning a toilet so that we have a nice house and happy family, then that is ok. If that means that we service annoying customers in the layaway department so that we have money for college then that is a pretty good deal. I really enjoyed my time as a hotel cleaner and as a glass collector in a pub. I also have also liked very much the journey that my life has taken me on as I search for ways to grow and stretch and experience whilst having a firm base in a few intrinsic foundational drivers, which will include going to clean in just a moment.
So what was the point? Simple: it is very easy to be passive aggressive and annoyed at the world for not being rose colored and beautiful all of the time, but in the end that will not help you. What will help you is discovering and understanding what drives you and finding authentic ways to live a life that is true to your passion. Sure, you might not end up rich in money but you might just end up rich in experience, love, comradeship or maybe you learn to live in the moment each and every wonderful moment. KBO, tempus fugit!

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